Getting Up Close and Personal

There is something about getting very close to an operating aircraft. As I write this, I am sitting in my car on the side of the road near LaGuardia watching the arriving flights come in for a landing right over my head. How close are they? My tracking app says 225 feet. As they pass overhead, I feel the breeze from their wake. Birds flying around from perch to perch are at roughly the same height. Yeah, that close. I have been to this place before, but never when they are arriving on this particular runway enabling such a thrilling experience. And while the view is amazing, the photography is tricky. There are limitations to the photography side of things that don't exist shooting just a thousand or so feet further away. Of course the field of view is one limitation. I have mostly kept the long lens that has become the staple of my shooting in its bag today, instead opting for the short lens that came with my camera and is intended more for portraits. And yet still, for some shots even it won't quite go wide enough to fit the whole plane. Of course this is a problem that can be remedied relatively easily, as shorter lenses can easily be purchased. However there is another problem that is more difficult to solve. It is not a problem of equipment but rather one of skill and technique. The problem is that of relative speed.
If you have ever looked up in the sky at a plane flying at 40,000 feet, you may have been surprised at how slow it seemed to be moving all that way up there. I know I have many times. When I was a child, I was amazed that a plane could stay in the air moving that slowly. And yet, they are quite obviously moving very fast, 500-600 miles per hour fast! But for as fast as they are moving, the relative size of the sky is much greater. Here I am faced with the opposite problem. While the planes are moving much slower, in the neighborhood of only 125 miles per hour, the space that they are moving through is much smaller relative to me and they appear to be moving very fast. To successfully photograph them, I must physically move very fast, but my camera must work equally fast focusing and firing the shutter.
It has been a fun couple of hours that I have spent here today. While it wouldn't be the way that I would want to shoot every day, it has been a fun change of pace. And the views when I haven't been shooting have been fantastic. But there is a certain level of appreciation that I have learned today about shooting from a distance that is a bit further away. There is something about shooting at an arms length instead of shooting when the object is, literally, right in your face.